Part of my Festive Italian Feast, perfect for cosy Christmas entertaining.
100g pancetta, cut into small cubes
1kg stewing beef, cubed
Salt and pepper
2 stalks celery
2 medium onions
2 carrots, peeled
4 cloves garlic
1 level tbsp chopped rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste (or tomato puree)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 anchovy fillets
250ml red wine
Pinch dried chilli flakes
800g / 28oz tinned chopped tomatoes
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and a little olive oil and fry until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Meanwhile, dredge the beef cubes in a little flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
Add a little vegetable oil to the pot and brown the meat in batches. Be patient and aim for a lovely dark crust – it will really pay off in flavour later. Set the browned beef aside with the crisped pancetta.
While the beef is browning, finely chop the celery, onion and carrot. (I use a food processor for this.) Add the chopped vegetables to the pot with pinch of salt and pepper and a little extra olive oil if required. Cook down for about 10 minutes until soft.
Slice the garlic, then add to the vegetables along with the rosemary and bay leaves and cook for a minute or two. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the balsamic vinegar, whole anchovy fillets and red wine, and let the liquid reduce slightly. Add the chilli flakes and tinned tomatoes and rinse out the tins with a little splash of water to get all that tomato juice.
Return the beef, pancetta and any resting juices to the pot. Give everything a good stir, poking down the meat so it’s just covered with the liquid. Bring to a bubble, then pop a lid on and transfer to the oven. Cook at 300F / 150C for 3 hours, giving it a stir halfway through if you happen to be around.
Serve with rosemary focaccia and tumblers of red wine for a rustic Italian vibe.
Make Ahead: Stew can be made up to 2 days ahead. When ready to eat, reheat gently on the stove until piping hot.